Alpenhorn Sunday

New Year’s Day was glorious – a bright blue sky, sunshine and cold! Perfect for a walk around town with my dearest, followed by coffee by the fireplace at a favourite downtown cafe. Little did we expect the Marktplatz to be full of alpenhorn players getting ready to “ring” in 2017 with a blast!

Alpenhorns are native instruments to Switzerland, Austria and other alpine countires, where they were orginially used to communicate between mountain villages. They have a special sound that evokes memories of mountain walks and Swiss folklore (Alepenhorn World Record).

Basel is basically flat Basel-The Pocket Metropolis, no tall, snow-capped mountains in sight, so to find over a hundred alphorn players in one place was a rare treat – and a lot of fun! One of the musicians explained that theyhad come from all over Switzerland and had connected by email to create this impromptu concert. My favourite of all – the curly alpenhorn – a real individualist!

*For a better look, click on any photo to view in gallery format.

Eccelston SQUARE

Yesterday was cold in London: frost on the top of cars and bright red mailboxes, commuters folded into their coats and thick scarves as they rushed to (delayed yet again) trains at Victoria Station. Only  a few streets away from all of this frenetic movement, there is a little oasis of calm and reflection locked away behind a metal gate in Eccelston Square– a natural escape for the few to enjoy in a busy city. Walking past the gate, I was drawn to the contrast of straight angles and curved lines, the juxtaposition of forged iron and the natural forms of trees and leaves.

This shot also led me to think about the effect picture format has on the way we view images. Playing with the focal point of pictures – where is the eye of the viewer drawn? – as well as symmetry and form; lines, grids, and texture, I have been thinking about how a square photo format can enhance symmetry and draw the eye to the centre of the image.

Here are two versions of the same photo – one traditionally rectangular, the other using a square format. Which version is more effective? Which one do you prefer?

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“In Flow” – thanks Otto!

I “borrowed” (stole?) today’s title from a photo blog that continues to have an important influence on me, and has raised some great questions and topics which have impacted the way I am learning to visually think about photography. The blog is called In Flow  by the talented Norwegian photographer Otto von Munchow. Highly reccommended for anyone involved in creative pursuits or who just wants to explore new ideas.

Flow…. in London, the flow and tides of the Thames defines the city; its post codes, neighbourhoods, history, even the way people pronounce and use words, are defined in part by the Thames and one’s location in relation to its flow. For an inland city, flowing water has a powerful hold on the city. There is a little square, across from Borough Market, between some office towers and within sight of Tower Bridge, which is cross-crossed by sunken troughs of flowing water. I took a shot there several years ago which I turned into a photo-etching, and now I have returned to take more photos with the hope of making prints from them sometime soon. Please let me know what you think and how to improve!

 

‘Pretty’ just makes me happy….

Winter is in the air – the days are getting shorter, the light sharper and the temperatures icier! I came across this photo this evening and it made me think of good times and sunny days this past summer. It is one of those shots that just makes me happy! (Photo taken at the opening of the Gottard Tunnel in a neighbouring Italian-speaking Swiss village, full of stone houses and good wine!)

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Chalk and Cheese…

How I love this British English expression! I learned it when I lived many years ago in London, and somehow it has stayed in my vocabulary. It means to compare two things which are completely different from each other  – with a rather ironic tone. I still have a little giggle each time I use it.

Lately, I have been in London making my annual  creative “pilgrimage” to Central Saint Martins University of the Arts for courses in photography and printmaking, so there has not been a lot of time for looking through the shops. The huge number of tourists on the streets and the hot weather have also been deterents. I did manage a day out with my youngest son who needed an “update” to his student wardrobe, so we visited Primark (sheer claustrophobic madness!) and afterwards a little detour to Liberty for mummy and a look around through the fabric (haberdashery – another British word I love!) department. Actually, any excuse to vist the iconic Tudor building which houses Liberty  (liberty.co.uk/…etails/article/fcp-content) is a good excuse, as the shop’s architecture is incredibly beautiful, not to mention their scarves and other lovely flowered things.

I thought it was an intersting contrast to take similar photos from a mezzanine above the main shop floor. Both locations were captured within 40 minutes of each other.

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Benches along the Thames

I always love walking along London’s Embankment, across the Golden Jubilee Bridge and then down around the Southbank Centre (southbankcentre.co.uk). The Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, National Film Theatre, impromptu music, skaters and street music – it is all there in full colour…except when it suddenly turns grey and drizzly. Then a monchrome mist descends and casts its damp gloom over everything. Londoners, being the hardy souls they are, don’t let a bit of grey get in the way of enjoying a Sunday afternoon out. Here and there, it is still possible to find pops of colour as people sit on benches facing the river and watch the boats go by.  At the moment there is a special instalation of bright orange variations of park benches scattered around the Royal Festival Hall. Called Modified Social Benches (southbankcentre.co.uk/…/modified-social-benches-1001665) by the Danish artist Jeppe Hein (jeppehein.net) these variations on New York City urban architecture try to break the down “those behavioural patterns in public space, since even contact-avoiding people allow bodily closeness in limited space. With its modifications, the benches transform its surroundings into places of social activity and foster dialogue between the users and the passers-by.” (taken from the Southbank Centre website). 

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A bench’s influence on the interactions between people and their urban surroundings didn’t seem to be limited to the orange installations, other more traditional benches also serve their social purpose well…

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Portraits in an (hopefully future) exhibition…

It is almost August and time to think, reflect and choose a summer photography course to push me and my camera to the next level. Last year, I went to London to take a short course at Central St Martins University of the Arts (arts.ac.uk/…/photography-ideas-and-practice) – an amazing experience! Here, for the first time in my life, I was able to find my place, focus (excuse the unintended pun) on what I wanted to do within photography and stretched my technical and creative abilities in new directions. Highly reccommended! This year, I have the opporutnity again and I have been going through the extensive summer offerings; courses in developing, portraits, urban photography, fashion…what to choose??? Over the year, I have also been reflecting on what my greatest creative challenges and frustrations are – and it definitely whittles down to lighing and portraits. It is here where I find most of my ‘series’ ideas directed and find myself struggling with the technical frustration of not being able to capture more than a fairly standard image. I want to capture more of the personality, the stories and the uniqueness of the people I see in stronger, more creative, and maybe even more daring ways than I am able to do now.

For several years now, I have also tried to visit the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk/whatson/bp2016/exhibition.php) in London. Looking at the winning paintings, I find great inspiration staring out from paper and canvas. These images provoke questions; Why was this one chosen over that one? What is it that makes me come back to see this one mutiple times? Why does this one evoke this feeling? etc. Never have I come away from this annual exhibition without strong impressions which stay with me for months. The catalogues also serve as a kind of textbook to look at, to see what can be learned and applied to the pictures I take (and no, I know I am definitely NOT on the same level as these portraits – yet), as excellent examples to learn from.

In organizing my thoughts and aims for this year’s course, I went through my old photos to chose some of the portraits which I felt were ‘on the way’. Not all of my favourites are here but I thought that these ones were representative of what I am able to do at the moment.

 

Cool it! (…and back it up!)

On a very hot and sunny summer’s day, I am going through some of the photos I took a few months back. I saw this one taken in Interlaken, and I could just feel the coolness of the Spring frost! Perfect for today’s sweltering weather.

Why am I going through my photos?  I am organizing and saving my work today as I learned a very “dramatic” and important lesson last week when I accidently spilled (such a tiny littlle bit of!!!!) coffee on my keyboard – right on the side where the charger cable goes (of course!). Alles kaput….and no recent backups! I think….”There go all my photos, the last video taken of my father, bookmarks, my writing, my life…..argh!” Luckily it was possible to save the data from the SSD card but it was a real (and expensive) lesson learned. Back everything up – cloud, external harddrive, anything that works for you, before you end up with prematurly grey hair and many lost memories.

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Back at the seaside

We didn’t quite finish cleaning out the cottage the last time we were on Long Island. So eagerly back we came, bringing the rocking chair with us as well. The weather had changed into a blustery day with a watery sun trying its best to break though the overcast sky. The Atlantic waves were rolling in with whitecaps and the air was salty with their spray. A great day for taking pictures, regardless of the lighting – it’s watery blue hue seemed a perfect match to the pastel atmospehere of a deserted beach.

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Did it!

Overcoming obstacles is difficult and takes courage, overcoming one’s own insecurities (yes, we all have them, those “Am I good/talented/creative enough?” moments in life), requires a deep breath and some reckless daring….so I dared. I entered a big competition for the first time; the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. Will I win? Probably not BUT this particular competition gives feedback on the photos submitted….good learning and practice for the next moment of bravery. If anything, be inspired and use this as the first step and the encouragement for getting your own creative endevours “out there” somehow; enter a competition, create a new photo or art blog, curate a small exhibition at home and invite friends. All good practice and good fun!

Please have a look and please share…. https://www.lensculture.com/magnum-photography-awards-2016/event-submission/203218?utm_campaign=62-submit&utm_content=submit&utm_medium=social&utm_source=fb-social